MaKayla LaRue:
IHS Agricultural Educational Teacher FFA Advisor
MaKayla LaRue: IHS Agricultural Educational Teacher FFA Advisor

A new school year is about to begin as well as a new agricultural science teacher. McKayla LaRue will take over the role as the Independence High School Agricultural Educational teacher FFA advisor. She will take over a program that is in its second year and already has developed a positive track record in developing student leaders. 

LaRue comes from Chanute and is a graduate of Erie High School. She recently graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Agricultural education. As she begins her first year of teaching she is already looking at ways to expand the program in other directions. "I will be teaching Introduction to Agriculture, Agricultural Communications, Leadership and Animal Science. Eventually, I would like to split into a pathway of plant science and horticultural. Even though they are opposite, they go together very well," said LaRue. She added that the classes will combine food science and biotechnology. Also, after the next couple of years she would like to explore implementing advanced animal science or veterinary science classes.

According to LaRue, any student can take her classes. They don't have to be raised on a farm to appreciate agricultural studies. "If you eat and get dressed everyday, you are part of agriculture," said LaRue. "There are lessons that involve food. Who doesn't like to eat? That is the easiest way to get students interested in this class. However, after a while there is some kind of personal connection that comes out whether we are talking about animal science or simple vaccination techniques, because the student has a dog at home or they may be interested in showing their livestock at the local fair. There is something in this class for everyone." 

LaRue recently attended an eight day instructional course at the  Professional Development Institute at the University of Kentucky to develop her ability to teach the Principals of Agricultural Science-Animal Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) course in her program.  

She spent 65 hours working through nearly every lesson in the year-long curriculum and learning how to deliver lessons in an inquiry-based way that will shift focus in the classroom from teacher-led to student-directed learning. According to a quote by LaRue in a press release, "CASE has improved my strengths within animal science and I am excited to bring this curriculum into my classroom. This is a problem-based curriculum that challenges students with industry challenges agriculturalists face everyday. I have the rights to use this curriculum in the classroom but I also have 18 other AG teachers I have met through this course I can call on." 

"When I arrived in the classroom I was concerned the other students might look down upon me because I was the youngest in the class. It was just the opposite, they welcomed me and were excited I was there. It just reiterated by belief on why I'm in this field. It's because AG teachers are awesome," said LaRue. 

When asked to explain what Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization is and how does it works LaRue said, "Within agricultural education there is actually a three ring model: the classroom laboratory, FFA and Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). Many believe this is the foundation of how AG education is suppose to be set up. This foundation provides the classroom element and the FFA and the SAE branches to supplement agricultural education, as explained by LaRue.

In 1988, the FFA changed its name to the National FFA organization. The reason was that originally the program was just for farmers, however, with the influx of many different occupations and technology pertaining to agriculture the organization realized it needed to be more inclusive. " They saw they needed the scientist, mechanics and farmer. That is why they broadened their name," said LaRue. 

In 1928, when the FFA was founded, girls were not allowed to join the organization. It wasn't until 1969 girls were officially included in the organization. In many states girls now outnumber the boys in their chapters. 

"The SAE is in the individual side," as explained by LaRue. "It incorporates a student's own experience in working in a local animal shelter, clinic or the fast food industry and using them as examples because it is food processing on the food science side." The student will document their own records and hours and maintain those records and work towards the different FFA degrees. "Through these experiences students can learn record keeping, financial communication how to balance their records and save their money, but mostly how to be a good employee."

As LaRue prepares for the upcoming school year she will be responsible for teaching approximately 78 students in separate classes."That is the number of students of the entire school I student taught at. I feel like I'm teaching the entire high school I came from," laughed LaRue. She concluded by saying, "I'm excited about it."